This weekend I was lucky enough to be able to put aside my "planner hat" and play the role of maid of honor, as my best friend and I went shopping for her wedding dress. It took 2 days, and 5 stops but we had an amazing time, and found her the perfect dress. I took some notes along the way to pass along to you. Hopefully this helps make your experience a fun and successful one.
1. The first thing I noticed was how fortunate we are here in Portland to have so many wonderful dress stores to visit. We visited: Bridal Exclusives, David's Bridal, Ania's, Sophie Chang's and Anna's. They all had a great selection of dresses, and most notably, they all exceeded my expectations for customer service. Never did I feel they were pressuring my friend to buy a dress. They always listened to what she wanted, and they knew when and how to comfortably and successfully introduce new styles/elements my friend either thought she didn't want, or hadn't considered. Really, truly, outstanding service across the board.
2. The second thing that stood out for me during our shopping was timing. With the exception of David's Bridal, every shop was recommending ordering the dress at least 6 months before the wedding. So ladies, if you are a spring/summer bride for 2014, make your appointments now!!
3. Strategic scheduling. I really found that condensing the visits to a two day time period was a huge help. It ensured that we remembered our favorites along the way, and it kept up a great momentum and kept us focused on the goal. One thing I would recommend is allowing 90 minutes for each visit. The last thing you want to feel is rushed. Secondly, I would recommend starting at David's Bridal. It may seem weird, but at David's, they have samples on the floor in a variety of sizes. So if you are a regular size 12 (like I am) you can see what a dress style actually looks like on your figure, in your size. Unfortunately, most stores only carry one or two sizes, usually a 10-12, which fits, a size 8, and it can be hard to imagine what it looks like when it really doesn't fit. By starting at David's, you can narrow down what styles look the best on your figure.
4. Come prepared. I recommend coming to the appointments with your hair and make up done (not a bridal do, just don't put it in a pony tail, if you know what I mean). Looking good, and feeling good goes along way toward keeping an upbeat attitude and enjoying the day. I also recommend wearing (or packing) some spanx, a strapless bra, and some heels. Again, these little details really help with the fitting.
5. Don't forget your open mind. While it is good to begin shopping with an idea of what you like (and don't like), do try a variety of things on. What you think you hate, could be the very thing that gives you the bridal goosebumps.
6. Be honest. Be upfront with your budget, and really stay away from trying on dresses outside of that budget. No one needs a heart break. Also, don't buy a dress that will only look great if you lose 20 pounds. No one needs that stress.
7. Select your shopping buddies selectively. Dress shopping can be a blast, but it can also be stressful. Select 2 or 3 people who are kind, honest and who most importantly, will strongly support whatever decision YOU make.
8. Trust your gut, and narrow down your favorites at each store. We left each store with a favorite. And really truly, my friend LOVED every favorite. Twice I had to encourage her to keep her next appointment because she was in love, and wouldn't you know, she ended up with a dress she found at the last store. So narrow down your choices, and then compare your favorite from store #2 to store #1. Pick the winner between that showdown, and go to store #3. And keep going that way until you narrow it down to your absolute favorite. Really, there isn't a wrong answer, but in my experience, your gut will tell you what you really want.
I hope these tips help you make the most of your dress shopping. I truly hope you have as good of a time as we did. It is one of those things we will remember forever.